Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boxing and Racing: Two Sports, Same Leadership.

I was watching ESPN (TSN up here in the Tundra) and they had a one hour show featuring Mike Tyson's best knockouts. As anyone over 30 who watches the sweet science would remember, Mike Tyson was a brute. He was completely unstoppable in his early career. I remember having to study one night for an exam and listening to one of his bouts on the radio. It lasted 22 seconds and that was pretty much the norm for his early fights. This brutality even spawned a catch phrase. When someone was confronted with something they did not want to do: "I'd rather get in the ring with Mike Tyson", was heard quite often.

The produced "best of" show was not overly well done, because much of the footage was grainy and it seemed cobbled together. Some of the knockouts were missing, as well. Enthralled with some of them, however, I began to surf the web for a DVD of some of the great bouts over time, including Tyson's. What I found was a hodge-podge of DVD makers, some sure to be pirated, but no compilation DVD's from anyone in a position of power. One would figure that the World Boxing Council, or one of the myriad acronyms in the sport would have all of the great bouts throughout history digitized, available and documented. Should not Liston-Clay, Foreman-Ali and the hundreds of amazing bouts in history be there for all to see?

Nope.

Forty some years ago NFL films was created so that the sports entire history - every snap, every play, every locker room shot, every news item, everything - could be kept in a vault. Should they need it, it is there. Should local news need a clip when doing a story, it's there. For historians or fans, it's there.

Did it happen by accident? Of course not. Back in 1964 Commissioner Pete Rozelle asked for $12,000 of seed capital from each team (like herding cats I imagine) and they bought an existing company who was taping games. The rest is history.

What did it do for the sport. According to the Wiki: "The real value of NFL Films is how it packages and sells the game and many credit it as a key reason that the NFL has become the most watched league in the United States."

NFL - foresight and strong leadership. Boxing - a mess.

Which one is racing? It is pretty obvious, is it not. I remember about four or five years ago wanting to see Secretariat's career on DVD. I could not find it. I went to the web to see if I could find his Belmont win. Nothing. Recently much of this has popped up on the web, but uploaded by individuals, just like we see in boxing. In fact, try and even get the historical running lines for some horses - either you can't or you get charged money for it.

Boxing has fallen on hard times. There are several competing belts, no one knows who is a champ and who is not, the best don't fight the best, they worry about other things (if a boxer was a horse he would probably not be going to the Breeders Cup to face a foe in a bout that fans want to see), their history is hard to find, or watch. Their TV ratings are abysmal now, after a half-century of being highly rated. It had no leadership, fighting factions, lack of foresight, and a fan-base that looks nostalgically at the game, wishing that things were like they were.

If that sounds eerily familiar, it should, because its us.

Over the years we have fought about rules, we have raised takeouts to oblivion, we have wrung our hands at government interference, we have considered bettors a necessary nuisance, we have worried about this week, or this month; because thinking any further ahead was too tough. Sooner or later these things bite you in the butt.

Like the sweet science, is racing too far gone? Time will tell I guess.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Onion has a video of Holyfield fighting a horse... hilarious.

http://www.theonion.com/content/video/evander_holyfield_to_box_horse

malcer said...

Excellent points!

The only one of boxing's grave mistakes that racing hasn't made is making its best races exclusive to pay-per-view (where you can make a big buck now, but you're practically unable to gain new fans).

Interestingly enough, the NFL (as well as NHL, MLB and even the short-lived World Series Racing Championship) made the mistake of selling their rights to pay-TV when trying to become more popular in Europe. It's obviously an easy trap to fall into.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head. Harness racing and boxing are one in the same, they both sat back happy with their returns with no ambition while other people with similar ides(UFC and Poker) thrived for more.
If only we could get the people who want more in charge, then we have it made, and I'm thinking that until Slots windfalls end, we ain't seen the worst yet!

regards,

whip.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head. Harness racing and boxing are one in the same, they both sat back happy with their returns with no ambition while other people with similar ides(UFC and Poker) thrived for more.
If only we could get the people who want more in charge, then we have it made, and I'm thinking that until Slots windfalls end, we ain't seen the worst yet!

regards,

whip.

Pacingguy said...

I know this is not the point of this post but the Trotting Hall of Fame in Goshen sell a DVD of the year's biggest races; it includes some races from Canada and abroad.